Archive for April 12, 2019

Iran’s malign activities amid natures’ wrath- Jerusalem Studio 413 

April 12, 2019

 

 

Trump’s Golan move irks Lebanese who lay claim to land held by Israel 

April 12, 2019

Source: Trump’s Golan move irks Lebanese who lay claim to land held by Israel | The Times of Israel

Residents near border still hope to win Shebaa Farms from Israel, though some politicians say claims are an excuse for Hezbollah to retain weapons

An Israeli military position is seen on a hill over Kfar Chouba, southeast Lebanon. April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

An Israeli military position is seen on a hill over Kfar Chouba, southeast Lebanon. April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

CHEBAA, Lebanon (AP) — Akram Kanaan looked toward an Israeli military position on a snow-capped mountain that overlooks the village of Chebaa in southern Lebanon, pointing toward the scenic area captured by Israel more than five decades ago. No matter how long it takes, he said, it will eventually return to Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Like many others in this area where the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel meet, Kanaan — a member of Chebaa’s municipal council — is angry about US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and effectively annexed in 1981. The American president had no right to give Israel lands that belong to Syria and Lebanon, he said.

“These are Arab territories that will be liberated sooner or later the way the south was liberated,” said Kanaan, standing near Chebaa’s main school as its buses left the compound at the end of a school day.

Trump’s move last month has caused concern among Lebanese officials that it would mean also recognizing Shebaa Farms and nearby Kfar Chouba hills, captured along with the Golan, as Israeli territory. Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the US recognition undermines Lebanon’s claim to the territory.

An Israeli military position, right, is seen on the top of Mount Hermon in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, where the borders between Israel, Syria and Lebanon meet. April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The origin of the dispute over ownership of the Shebaa Farms dates back to the French colonial period, when France drew maps of the area without officially demarcating the border.

Following an 18-year operation, Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, but held on to the farms. Hezbollah claimed the withdrawal to be incomplete and demanded, along with the Lebanese government, that Israel withdraw. Israel rejected the demands, saying the land was Syrian when it was captured in 1967. Syria has held an ambiguous position and generally refuses to demarcate the border before Israel withdraws from the Golan.

The UN, which doesn’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, has said Lebanon’s claim is to be settled along with the Golan’s fate.

The territory is controversial, even among Lebanese themselves.

Although most Lebanese agree that the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Chouba hills are part of their country, anti-Syrian politicians have suggested it serves as a pretext for Hezbollah to hang on to its weapons and have called for the demarcation of the Lebanon-Syria border, a demand repeated by Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday even as he said the territory is Lebanese.

Politicians allied with the Syrian government say there is no need for such demarcation.

The area this week looked more like a tourist attraction, albeit deserted, rather than a front line, with rivers and springs flowing, birds chirping and shepherds leading their herds in the mostly green area amid clear weather.

According to Kanaan, the total size of the Lebanese area still held by Israel since June 1967 is about 250 square kilometers (96 square miles) or about 2.5 percent of Lebanon’s total territories.

An Indian U.N. peacekeeper passes next his armored personnel carrier near Chebaa farms in southeast Lebanon, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Kanaan said the area is owned by Lebanese citizens and that many of them have documents proving their ownership registered in the Lebanese coastal city of Sidon, the provincial capital of south Lebanon.

Arab countries have unanimously rejected the US recognition of Israeli control over the Golan, calling the Trump administration’s policies unfairly biased toward Israel.

On the edge of Chebaa, shepherds were seen taking their herds of sheep and goats near a fence built by Israel. About every 100 meters (109 yards) white and blue barrels marked the so-called blue line, or the border that the UN drew after Israel’s withdrawal in 2000.

The area has been calm since August 2006, after a UN Security Council resolution ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group.

Soldiers at Lebanese army checkpoints on roads leading to Chebaa and Kfar Chouba checked the identity cards of people visiting the area to make sure no strangers enter. White UN vehicles with light blue flags could be seen along the fence that marks the border.

Near al-Naqar lake, three UN peacekeepers stood outside their armored personnel carrier keeping an eye on any suspicious move. Next to them stood a giant poster with a picture of late Egyptian president Gamal Abdul-Nasser and one of his famous quotes that reads: “What was taken by force can only be regained by force.”

A poster shows the late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul-Nasser, near Chebaa farms, southeast Lebanon. The text reads: “What was taken by force can only be regained by force.” April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the UN force in southern Lebanon known as UNIFIL, said the issue of Chebaa is one that is “discussed in New York at UN headquarters and not part of our mandate. Nevertheless, the position of member states is not necessarily the position of the United Nations,” Tenenti said when asked about Trump’s decision.

“Nothing has changed, and we are continuing with our work in the south of Lebanon, to monitor the cessation of hostilities and to work closely with the Lebanese army,” he said.

In nearby Kfar Chouba, shops were open in its main square where a group of people gathered at the main bakery, while others bought freshly picked vegetables and fruits.

“With deep regret, this guy who is called Trump who is the president of the United States of America, the most important country in the world, is acting like a thug,” said grocer Riad Khalifeh, who was 23 when Israeli forces captured the hills overlooking his hometown of Kfar Chouba in 1967.

“Who gave you the right to give a land that belongs to me or to Palestine or to Syria to an enemy that is occupying it?” Khalifeh asked.

 

US sanctions Lebanese group laundering Hezbollah money

April 12, 2019

Source: US sanctions Lebanese group laundering Hezbollah money | The Times of Israel

Network accused of laundering millions of dollars of drug money across multiple countries to help finance terror group

Hezbollah fighters hold flags, as they attend the memorial of their slain leader Sheik Abbas al-Mousawi, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in 1992, in Tefahta village, south Lebanon, February 13, 2016. (Mohammed Zaatari/AP)

Hezbollah fighters hold flags, as they attend the memorial of their slain leader Sheik Abbas al-Mousawi, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in 1992, in Tefahta village, south Lebanon, February 13, 2016. (Mohammed Zaatari/AP)

WASHINGTON – US officials on Thursday announced sanctions on a Lebanese network accused of laundering millions of dollars for “drug kingpins” and helping finance Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite movement that Washington labels a terrorist organization.

The US Treasury Department said it has added Lebanese national Kassem Chams to its blacklist, along with two related entities: the “Chams Money Laundering Organization” and Chams Exchange, a money service business in Lebanon.

“Kassem Chams and his international money laundering network move tens of millions of dollars a month in illicit narcotics proceeds on behalf of drug kingpins and facilitate money movements for Hezbollah,” the Treasury said in a statement.

The Chams network moves money to and from multiple countries including Australia, Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Spain, the United States and Venezuela, according to the department.

Israeli soldiers show UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col a Hezbollah tunnel that penetrated Israeli territory from southern Lebanon, on December 6, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The sanctions are part of the administration’s “unprecedented campaign to prevent Hezbollah and its global terror affiliates from profiting off violence, corruption, and the drug trade,” Treasury under secretary Sigal Mandelker said.

The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said Chams Exchange operates under license and supervision of the Central Bank of Lebanon (BdL) “despite US authorities long suspecting it” of significant money laundering.

The Treasury said it remains committed to working with BdL “to eliminate access to the Lebanese financial system by narcotics traffickers, money launderers, and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.”

Israeli soldiers Nov. 4, 2009 unpack rockets seized by Israeli authorities on a ship near Cyprus that defense officials said was carrying hundreds of tons of weapons from Iran bound for Hezbollah. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov )

US President Donald Trump’s administration has accused Iran of taking provocative measures to destabilize the Middle East.

It has increased sanctions on the Islamic republic in order to undercut its revenues and to financially squeeze regional allies like the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Earlier this week Washington designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

 

Chanting ‘death to Israel,’ Iranians rally against US blacklisting of Guard 

April 12, 2019

Source: Chanting ‘death to Israel,’ Iranians rally against US blacklisting of Guard | The Times of Israel

Thousands of worshipers gather after Friday prayers, burning American and Israeli flags; Iranian general warns move puts US forces ‘in danger’

Protesters burn a representation of the American flag during a rally against the US's decision to designate Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization, after their Friday prayers at the Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) square in Tehran, Iran on April 12, 2019. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

Protesters burn a representation of the American flag during a rally against the US’s decision to designate Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization, after their Friday prayers at the Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) square in Tehran, Iran on April 12, 2019. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN — Iranians rallied on Friday against the US’s decision to designate the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization.

Thousands of worshippers came out of mosques after prayers and burned flags of both the US and Israel while also chanting traditional anti-US and anti-Israel slogans at such rallies of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

State media said similar demonstrations took place in other Iranian cities and towns on Friday.

The US government this week designated the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group to increase pressure on Iran, isolate it further and prompt authorities to divert some of the financial resources Tehran uses to fund militant activity in the Middle East and beyond.

اسماعیل الهام‌پی@Esi_elhampe

همه با هم پیر و جوان هم صدا با سراسر کشور لبیک به هشتگ دست در دست سبزپوشان حریم ولایت با پاسداری از انقلاب اسلامی بپردازیم

Iran responded by designating all US forces as terrorist and labeling the US a “supporter of terrorism.”

Also Friday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressing that Iran would hold the US accountable for any future provocations against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.

According to the state-run IRNA news agency, Zarif said the US and “several puppet governments will bear responsibility for dangerous consequences of the adventurism.”

“The provocative move will raise tensions to an uncontrollable level and increase threats in the region,” he said, adding that the Revolutionary Guard is at the forefront in fighting terrorism and extremism.

The commander of Iranian ground troops, Brig. Gen. Kioomars Heidari, said the US decision was self-destructive as the Americans “have put their own forces, particularly the US Central Command, in danger across the world.”

US President Donald Trump said his administration’s “unprecedented” designation “recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”

It was the first time that Washington has branded part of a foreign government a terrorist group, meaning that anyone who deals with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could face prison in the United States.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, and the force has amassed strong power both at home and abroad. The Guards’ prized unit is the Quds Force, which supports Iran-backed forces around the region, including Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

 

Pompeo wishes Netanyahu ‘mazal tov’ on his election victory 

April 12, 2019

Source: Pompeo wishes Netanyahu ‘mazal tov’ on his election victory | The Times of Israel

US secretary of state hails ‘unbreakable’ alliance with Israel, vows to ‘continue to work together to address common threats’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2019. (Jim Young/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2019. (Jim Young/Pool/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wished a “mazal tov” Thursday night to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his victory in the Knesset elections.

“Mazal Tov to PM @Netanyahu on his re-election, and to the people of #Israel on exercising their freedom to vote,” Pompeo tweeted early Friday morning, hours after the all-but-final results showed Netanyahu well-placed to form a stable, right-wing governing coalition.

“The U.S.-Israel alliance is unbreakable. We will continue to work together to address common threats and strengthen the bond between our democracies,” Pompeo added.

According to a Central Elections Committee announcement late Thursday night, with all of the votes counted, checked and rechecked, Netanyahu’s Likud party edged past its rival Blue and White party with 26.45 percent of the vote to win 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset and head a potential 65-strong coalition.

Earlier in the day and on Wednesday, as the drama over the vote countdragged on in the Knesset, congratulations to Netanyahu poured in from world leaders, especially those who have a close and personal relationship with the prime minister.

As of Thursday evening, Netanyahu had taken congratulatory calls from US President Donald Trump and his VP Mike Pence, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.

Honduras recently declared its intention to open a trade mission in Jerusalem, promising to move its embassy to the city as soon as Israel opens a mission in Tegucigalpa.

Netanyahu’s office scheduled additional calls with foreign heads of state for the coming days.

The leaders of countries the prime minister recently touted good ties with, such as Poland, Chad and Russia, have not yet called to congratulate, but are expected to do so either after the final election results are announced, or when the new government is sworn in, which will likely take place in several weeks.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who visited Israel just a few days before Israelis headed to the polls, congratulated the “great leader” Netanyahu in a tweet.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued two tweets on the Israeli elections:

Петро Порошенко

@poroshenko

The leaders of France, Britain and Germany were expected to issue congratulations in the near future.

Austria’s Kurz was the first to send good wishes to Jerusalem, tweeting his congratulations “for an excellent showing” on Wednesday around noon. “While the official results have not yet been published, one matter is clear: you have — once again — gained the trust of the people of #Israel in record numbers,” he wrote.

“I am looking forward to working with you in the future, for the benefit of the people of Israel and the people of Austria.”

On Thursday, after his call to the old-new prime minister, Kurz tweeted to Netanyahu again. “We agreed to further strengthen the excellent bilateral relations between Israel and Austria,” he wrote. “We reaffirmed the need to fight all forms of anti-Semitism. I look forward to welcoming PM Netanyahu to Vienna soon.”

Sebastian Kurz

@sebastiankurz

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Netanyahu in Hebrew:

Chowkidar Narendra Modi

@narendramodi

חברי היקר ביבי @netanyahu, מזל טוב! הנך חבר יקר של הודו ואני מצפה להמשיך לעבוד איתך לקחת את השותפות הדו-צדדית שלנו

“My dear friend Bibi, Congratulations! You are a great friend of India, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to take our bilateral partnership to new heights,” he added in a second tweet.

Milos Zeman, the president of the Czech Republic, sent a lengthy congratulatory letter to Netanyahu.

“I am pleased that the Israeli people have confirmed their agreement with your political agenda and renewed your mandate, giving you the opportunity to continue to shape not only Israeli politics but also to participate in regional and international affairs,” he wrote.

“I hope that in the future we will have many opportunities to continue our fruitful cooperation and, last but not least, to fulfill my dream, namely to move the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

The country’s prime minister Andrej Babiš tweeted about Netanyahu’s election win, saying he is keeping his “fingers crossed for him to continue his work as Prime Minister.”

Embedded video

Consejo de Secretarios de Estado HN@CSecdeEstadohn

Trump called Netanyahu from aboard Air Force One.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked US President Trump for his great support of Israel, including the recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as well as for the strong stand against the Iranian regime, including the President’s recent decision against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Wednesday.

“The two leaders again expressed their appreciation for the abiding friendship between them and their countries. They agreed to continue to closely work together in the coming years for both Israel and the United States.”

 

An Arab NATO in the making

April 12, 2019
Saudi Arabia plays host to high-level officials from US, Gulf states and Jordan as it prepares to launch Middle East Strategic Alliance – a new body designed to counter Iran’s influence in the region
https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5492981,00.html

Saudi Arabia is preparing for the launch of the so-called “Arab NATO” — the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) — in an effort to combat Iranian hegomony in the region.

The kingdom on April 8 hosted a meeting with the high-level participation of Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Jordan. According to the Saudi WAS news agency, the meeting was “an important step to launching the alliance, which aims to strengthen the security and stability of the region and the world.”

 

Donald Trump with the Egyptian and Saudi leaders in Riyadh in May 2017
Donald Trump with the Egyptian and Saudi leaders in Riyadh in May 2017

Sulaiman al-Oqaily, a Saudi political analyst, says there must be one strategy among the Arab nations that form the alliance, as well as a clear target in order for such an endeavor to succeed.

First, al-Oqaily points out that there must be one united Arab bloc that has agreed that the “Arab NATO” would protect the Arab world from all kind of threats and security challenges. “Its members’ motives and determinants have to be the same,” he says.

Al-Oqaily says that the sectarianism with which Iran targets the Middle East is more dangerous than Israel.

“Iran is taking advantage of its culture and religious links to the Arab world to expand there and destroy it,” he says. “Israel can’t violate the Arab society like Iran, but through its intelligence services.”

He also speculates that if Iran weren’t involved in Iraq, the latter would have peace by now.

 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad in Tehran, February 2019 (Photo: EPA)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad in Tehran, February 2019 (Photo: EPA)

The US administration has since last year been exploring the creation of a new security body comprising Sunni Middle Eastern countries that would be geared toward countering Shiite Iran’s regional adventurism. Reportedly, MESA member-states would seek deeper cooperation in the realms of missile defense, military training and counter-terrorism, while strengthening broader political and economic ties.

“It would serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism and will bring stability,” a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council asserted in reference to the potential association last year.

“It’s not a new project. However, its implementation is what matters,” says Qassem Qaseer, a Lebanese political analyst. He confirms that the US has been working with Arab states for a while now to form such a body, noting that “the issue remains with the different agendas and political approach of its member of states.”

For example, Qaseer says that the Arab countries don’t agree on more than one critical issue, pointing out that the Arab NATO is still an idea with no structure.

“They aim to pressure Iran on the ground by such initiative, although, they need to make it a reality first,” Qaseer says. It is noteworthy that the Idea of an Arab NATO coalition is one of the results of the Arab-Islamic summit hosted by Riyadh in May 2017.

Jared Kushner with Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)

Jared Kushner with Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)

Over the past year, senior American officials, including President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner and international negotiator Jason Greenblatt, have conducted shuttle diplomacy among Middle East capitals. Several analysts who spoke to The Media Line confirmed the visits laid the foundation for MESA, although the notion reportedly was first raised by Saudi Arabia.

Regarding Israel, its relations with regional Muslim nations are by most accounts improving, primarily the result of a shared interest in curbing Iran’s potential nuclearization. However, the conflict with the Palestinians remains a major, if not insurmountable, obstacle to the establishment of full diplomatic ties between Israel and more of its neighbors.

Article written by Dima Abumaria. Reproduced with permission of The Media Line

 

For Netanyahu, an unprecedented election haul bodes well for political survival 

April 12, 2019

Source: For Netanyahu, an unprecedented election haul bodes well for political survival | The Times of Israel

The PM made history when his Likud party became the first since Israel’s inception to win more than a million votes — a trove he hopes will fend off his legal woes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara addresses their supporters as the results in the elections are announced, at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 09, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara addresses their supporters as the results in the elections are announced, at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 09, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The 2019 elections are over. Officials may yet be recounting votes, but nothing will change the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu has well and truly beaten the generals, the pollsters and the sourpusses. With 1,138,772 votes cast for Likud, Netanyahu’s party is the first in Israel’s history to cross the one-million-ballot threshold.

But the prime minister’s real challenges begin now, just as all eyes are turned toward Washington, in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

Will the reelected prime minister be able to hold onto his seat even if he is indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust? Will his renewed right-wing coalition be able to block the peace process, or will the Washington plan threaten his coalition stability? And will Netanyahu succeed in becoming a prime minister for all of Israel’s citizens — as he promised in his rather conciliatory winning speech — when he is so dependent on a coalition composed of radical right-wing and ultra-religious parties?

Ultimately, Netanyahu understands the value of his one million voters, and knows exactly where to invest them: in his own political survival.

The indictment coalition

The prime minister is now assembling a coalition that can prove loyal throughout his legal hearing process and even — if an indictment is served — while he stands trial in the Jerusalem District Court.

After his unprecedented win, and with contrarian Likud MKs Benny Begin and Oren Hazan out of the picture, Netanyahu has all 36 party members at his beck and call — none will dare to disobey or challenge him.

The ultra-Orthodox parties are also tightly bound to Netanyahu — come hell or high water or budget cuts — giving him 15 more seats of unconditional loyalty. The Union of Right-Wing Parties, with five seats, is also allied to the premier, who can be counted among its founders.

A worker prints election campaign posters for the Shas party showing pictures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, at Canaan Maxi Media Printing House in central Israel on March 7, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, also with five seats, may not be quite as beholden to Netanyahu, but Liberman loathes law enforcement agencies just enough to support the prime suspect.

As for Kulanu, with just four seats: Netanyahu is likely to take advantage of Moshe Kahlon’s deflated party and shaky situation to offer the former Likud MK a carrot and a stick: retain the Finance Ministry and assimilate Kulanu into the Likud mothership, thus guaranteeing the prime minister full political obedience. Kahlon knows firsthand how demanding his old party leader can be; after all, he was once Likud’s central committee chairman.

The gatekeepers’ deterrence

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at conference at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan on March 28, 2019. (Flash90)

Netanyahu’s victory speech delivered a clear message to law enforcement authorities: He won overwhelming national support, despite detailed and severe allegations of wrongdoing by him published by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit just weeks before the elections.

“One million people voted for us, so one civil servant will not sway public opinion,” a source close to the prime minister told The Times of Israel on Thursday. It won’t be an easy battle for the gatekeepers — both before and after the looming pre-trial hearing.

One million people voted for us, so one civil servant will not sway public opinion

Netanyahu, by the way, is confident he has extraordinary powers and will therefore have no problem standing trial while running the country — and may even continue to moonlight as defense minister.

The Blue and White disappearance

Benny Gantz jumped the gun when he boasted about his party’s “historic achievement” in a premature victory speech. Now, the only “achievement” he can claim is the decimation of the Zionist left, and possibly any opposition to Netanyahu.

Gantz and his Blue and White partners were unable to breach the insular right-wing bloc and effectively did not draw any seats from that side of the aisle. They did, however, destroy the Labor party, its spirit and leadership, leaving it with just six seats — an insignificant force even in Israel’s already shriveled opposition.

And if that were not enough, Blue and White also dented Meretz, completely ignored the Arab parties, and offered no alternatives to the nation-state law, thus contributing to an incredibly low Arab voter turnout.

Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White political alliance, claims victory at the end of April 9, 2019’s elections, in a speech in Tel Aviv (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Gantz’s partner Yair Lapid now talks about building an opposition that will “make this government’s life miserable,” but in reality, Blue and White is an ad hoc political alliance, composed of three different parties, that will disband sooner or later during this term. In over four decades of covering politics, I have seen many centrist parties come and go. None survive.

In 1977 it was Yigal Yadin’s DASH party, later came the Merkaz party and Tomi Lapid’s Shinui, and then there were Kadima and several others — all long forgotten. As Shimon Peres once said, there is no third option. And Netanyahu, who successfully dismantled rivals Kadima and Labor in the previous decade, is not very bothered by the threat posed by his new and inexperienced rivals.

And then there’s Trump

US President Donald Trump (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk while walking to the West Wing of the White House for a meeting March 25, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

According to sources close to Netanyahu, Trump is set to propose a convenient peace plan for Israel. The plan will stipulate that Area A in the West Bank (which the Palestinian Authority already controls fully) will become the land for the Palestinian state, along with some East Jerusalem neighborhoods that will be excised from the capital’s municipal borders.

The Palestinians are not likely to accept such an offer, but Netanyahu could play the unity card and call for the opposition to support him in the peace process. He will find, in such a case, that the real opposition is within his own bloc, and his coalition partners will veto any such move.

This takes us back to Netanyahu’s legal battle: He’s so invested in his indictment-busting coalition that there is little chance of promoting any peace plan — even if it is likely to be the most accommodating settlement Israel will ever receive, from the most accommodating president Israel has ever seen.